World’s longest-serving president eyes re-election

The world’s longest-serving president is seeking re-elec­tion to continue his 43-year rule in Equatorial Guinea.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, 80, has presided over a regime marked by alleged human rights abuses, including torture and disap­pearances.

Some opposition candidates are standing, but they are not expected to win. The president has a strong grip on the oil-rich nation, with family members in key government roles.

His eccentric son, who serves as the country’s Vice-President,Teodoro “Teodorin” Nguema Obiang Mangue, has enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in the US and Eu­rope, and even owns an expen­sive crystal-covered glove which was once owned by Michael Jackson, according to the UK authorities.

The “elections are merely cosmetic”, Professor Ana Lúcia Sá told the BBC.

“Nothing will change,” Profes­sor Sá, who specialises in politics and authoritarian African regimes at the University Institute of Lis­bon, said, adding she was “sure Obiang will be elected with more than 95 per cent” of the vote.

This sentiment is also echoed by activist, Tutu Alicante, who told Reuters news agency: “On Sunday people will cast the vote gov­ernment expects them to, because you cannot freely speak up your mind in Equatorial Guinea.”

“The opposition does not stand a chance,” Mr Alicante continued. “He is going to do whatever it takes not to leave power.”

Political opposition is barely tol­erated and severely hampered by the lack of a free press, as all broadcast media are either owned outrightly by the government or controlled by its allies.

It is thought that President Mba­sogo, who has previously denied rights abuses and election rigging, is seeking to clean up his international reputation. In September, the gov­ernment abolished the death penalty, in a move which was praised by the United Nations (UN).

President Mbasogo, who has sur­vived several coup attempts, seized power of the oil-rich West Afri­can nation in 1979 after a military takeover. Upon gaining office from his predecessor and uncle, Francis­co Macias Nguema, he made some reforms, but retained Nguema’s absolute control over the nation.

Nguema, whose rule saw thou­sands of deaths and a mass exodus from Equatorial Guinea, was later executed. –BBC/Reuters

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